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THE ARTIST:
By: Gary Schwan, The Palm Beach Post Art Critic
 
 

Portraits of movie stars

 
 

Other worlds

 
 

Huge apples

 
 

Cakes and candy bars

 
 

Floral

 
 

Sad-eyed funeral marchers

 
 

Still lifes

A mere glance at many of the artist’s paintings reveals the irony. His works are nothing if not the products of long, concentrated, unblinking contemplation. The artist has looked, really looked, at objects other men pass by without a second glance. He has thought about their uses as cultural metaphors when other men have taken them for granted.

Here is where artist and man, sensibility and history come together. In this nexus of past and present, the fanciful and the real, sincerity resides and art is made.

Rex's father was often on the road on business. When he would return to his family, he would bring candy for his children.

Some of Rex’s earliest memories are of his father reaching into his pocket and pulling out treats - candies wrapped in colorful and glittery packages, covered with intriguing words and images. American candies - exotic objects from a distant land for a young boy – visual memories to last a lifetime and bankable images to draw upon in later years.

Not all artists have a compulsion to make art. Not all the schoolboy notebooks of even the greatest artists are filled with furious doodles and drawings, executed in a white heat or with absentminded insouciance. Some artists, like Rex, must think through the pencil in their hand. Others think and then, sometimes reluctantly, pick up the pencil.

Rex has always been driven to draw. As a child, his talent was recognized by teachers. But becoming an artist was not encouraged, while a career in one of the "practical" professions was more highly regarded.

Despite the lack of encouragement, Rex persevered on his own. He would spend his monthly allowance, the equivalent of 50 cents, on drawing paper and Conté crayon. He would carefully cut the paper in two so he could create two drawings and thus make his money stretch.

Some of his earliest drawings were those of more egregious artifacts of mass culture - portraits of Western movie stars. He used photographs in fan magazines as models.

When people began reacting enthusiastically to his drawings, a seed was planted. Perhaps he had a future as an artist.

Rex was determined to become a graphic artist. And after a couple years of college and without any formal graphic art training, he acquired his first job as a graphic artist.

Rex thrived in the graphic art world, where creativity was not only prized but well paid. Here he developed a smooth gouache painting technique. And, driven by his compulsion to make art, he created fanciful depictions of other worlds.

Within ten years Rex rose to own and operate a multi-million dollar graphic arts and communication company in Washington, D.C. Along the way, he produced visual graphics and computerized animation for a television station and worked as art director for an educational motion picture company. His interest in creating videos to both complement and comment upon his paintings is honestly come by.

Rex’s extraordinary business success only whetted his appetite to create art. He left his company to pursue a career as a painter. He moved to Florida, to live and work.

It’s obvious his earliest images drew on his experience as a graphics designer. Consider his paintings of huge apples. Although the apple is far from perfectly rendered, there’s a commercial perfection about the painting. The elegantly shaped apple, which dominates the canvas, is neatly set off by a tri-partite background of red, purple and pale-blue. All the bases of commercial art have been touched. The image becomes more archetype than apple.

His large-scale depictions of cakes and candy bars are faithful reproductions. Yet the works have a resonance that takes us beyond the object we see. We bring our own cultural baggage to the picture, of course. Perhaps our own childhood memories. And we really re-see the image again after years of having taken it for granted. Rather than displaying coyness, the artist has managed to convey a refreshing directness in his approach to his subjects. He convinces us of his sincerity. There’s the innocent fascination for the objects of a new culture, not to mention the childhood memories of brightly packaged candy.

Rex’s floral radiate with bright and bold hues. His travels to Holland inspired him to interpret the gigantic blooms onto his canvases. Rex compels the viewer to see the importance of his subject by giving it dominance in his works.

Rex brings another fresh quality to his art - the joys and perplexities of absolute freedom. His style is highly diverse. He ranges from painting sad-eyed funeral marchers to highly stylized still lifes. The variety can perhaps be traced to the unbridled eagerness with which he wants to create art in America, a place he calls "the land of milk and cookies," where all things are possible.  

     -- Gary Schwan, The Palm Beach Post Art Critic - From 1988 - 2008

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